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Poway community members form group to be prepared for emergencies

Posted at 1:39 PM, Oct 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-25 16:39:22-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- David Busse will never forget that day, 20 years ago, when the Cedar Fire came just inches away from his home.

“There’s a portion of the property, literally a stone throw from our house, that burned and burned quite high into the sky. And then all of a sudden, the winds shifted, and everything was saved,” Busse said.

But there were others who weren’t as lucky as Busse, who came back to nothing but debris where their homes once stood.

After that experience, members of the community came together to form the Poway Neighborhood Emergency Corps, with the mission to help residents prepare for emergencies like wildfires. The group also teaches residents how to create defensible space and to have an emergency plan in place.

The group has the philosophy of “neighborhoods helping neighbors."

Terri Sorensen, president of the Poway Neighborhood Emergency Corps, said, “We're always looking for ways to better reach our residents of Poway and the different needs they have."

Additionally, the PNEC helps neighbors put together evacuation plans for their animals and also guides them in getting affordable homeowners insurance in fire prone areas.

In May, California’s largest home insurer, State Farm, stopped selling insurance across the state, something other providers started to do as well. And it’s a challenge Busse has been facing for years.

“This is the fourth time that we’ve been dropped by various carriers, and this place, by my knowledge, hasn’t burned in 50 years,” he said.

To get around this, the Poway Neighborhood Emergency Corps is working to get neighbors on board with the Firewise USA Program, which offers discounts on insurance. All they have to do is apply to become a “firewise community.”

Under that label, neighborhoods form a board that collaborates with local wildfire experts, and they perform wildfire risk assessments.

If they can get enough people, Poway will be the second city in San Diego County to have this program, something Busse said is a win-win for everyone.

He added, “It’s about being part of a solution that morphs and changes forward.”